Monday, May 30, 2022

 Freedom from Fear

The elementary school I attended—Steffan Manor in Vallejo, California—was completed in 1942, the year I was born. As you walked up the steps and through the front door, you entered a small rotunda. Around the cornice, in bold letters, were Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech; Freedom of Religion; Freedom from Want; Freedom from Fear. FDR enumerated these freedoms as a vision for the world in his State of Union address, delivered January 6, 1941.

I started Kindergarten in 1947, passed through the rotunda nearly every school day for seven years, and grew up believing those freedoms were what America was all about.

Sometime in the early fifties, we began doing air raid drills. At a given signal, we’d crawl under our desks, cover our heads and close our eyes, until the all-clear sounded. This was to protect us in the event of a nuclear attack. I don’t remember being afraid. I still had Freedom from Fear. Maybe I thought that old desk would keep me safe. The drills became old hat, just like fire drills, and we’d get under our desks and do a lot of talking and giggling.

Nowadays, my beautiful grandchildren and great grandchildren have “active shooter” drills, though I’m sure the school districts have come up with euphemisms that don’t frighten the children.

A neighbor tells me the local district conducts fire drills, earthquake drills, and “quiet” drills. She also shared a difficult conversation with her kids, explaining what happened in Uvalde, Texas. Her children are very bright and asked some tough questions. Has it happened before and where? Can it happen again? Honest answers were even tougher than the questions.

I’m wondering what they call active shooter drills at dear old Steffan Manor? And I wonder if kids look up at the cornice around the rotunda and still believe in Freedom from Fear?